Mr & Mrs Valentine | A Chester Zoo Wedding Reception

I’ve already told you guys all about mine and Adams recent New York City elopement, however I wanted to share our Chester Zoo wedding reception with you too.

Due to the nature of the actual ceremony, we wanted something to celebrate our marriage with friends and family at home. We’d looked at several different hotels and halls to host a UK based reception, but found ourselves facing overpriced hire charges and various other issues. Feeling underwhelmed, we began to search for slightly more alternative venues.

The main priority was to find a location that would suit both of our families; the majority of mine are based in the Manchester area and most of Adam’s family are in North Wales. We actually almost put a hefty payment down for a reception at a 4* hotel near Llangollen, but something in the back of my mind knew that we’d simply be settling.

I stubbornly scoured the internet and came across Oakfield Manor in Chester Zoo. Featured on ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo’ and seeped in rich history, this is somewhere that I spent a lot of my childhood and have since enjoyed many days out there with my own family. Adam and I are also massive animal lovers and visited Chester Zoo together in the early days of our relationship.

Assuming that this stunning venue would be way outside of our modest budget, I sent them a hopeful email and swiftly forgot all about it. A few days later, I was informed that not only was our preferred date available, but the quote came back a lot cheaper than expected. I was away on my sisters hen do that weekend but Adam went for look around and booked it there and then!

Fast forward to 22nd October 2016, we arrived at Chester Zoo armed with a little team of wonderful friends and family and began to decorate the manor. In all fairness, the backdrop was so beautiful that it required minimal effort. Built in 1885, it boasts various ornate fireplaces, wooden panelled walls and original Tudor-style features. With the addition of some floral bunting, fresh flowers and bookish paper fans, we were all set.

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The guests began to arrive and it was the best feeling in the world, seeing all of our loved ones under one roof. I spotted an old friend who had come down from Newcastle with her new husband and gave her the biggest hug of my life! A few weeks before our wedding, Adam and I realised that our respective parents haven’t actually met each other before so it was the perfect opportunity to introduce the family to my brand new in-laws.

We’d opted for fresh bacon and sausage sandwiches with a side of wedges as an evening snack and these seemed to go down well! Our cake was 2 tiers of simple, fresh lemon sponge by the lovely guys over at Sponge. I received one of their ‘cake cards’ for my birthday a few years ago and was taken by just how fresh and light it was, making them the natural choice for our wedding.

We also ordered almost 100 individual, boxed sponges in various flavours, including classic Victoria Sponge, Bakewell, Chocolate, Chocolate Orange, Lemon and Apple Crumble. Alongside our sweet buffet (including the mountains of candy corn we brought back from America!) these were very popular with our guests. So much so, that by the time Adam and I got around to trying one later that night, we were left with only a handful of gluten free Victoria sponges! They still tasted amazing though and it’s the perfect excuse for me to buy more cake for us 😉

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We’d hired our friend and professional photographer, Abigail Joan, to take some snaps of the evening. The last thing we wanted were posed, awkward shots of the family, so we asked her to be as natural as possible. We were not disappointed! We actually received our digital album back within a week of the reception and the results were just perfect. If you like what you see, head on over to her website to find out more (a shameless but thoroughly deserved plug!)

Adam and his best man, James, had prepared speeches, so after food, we all gathered round as they took centre stage. Adam nailed his speech, despite being horribly nervous before hand. A great balance of humour (occasionally adult themed and at my expense. Don’t ask…) and anecdotes from our first date to more somber moments, remembering our loved ones that are no longer with us. James dutifully humiliated his childhood friend and got plenty of giggles along the way!

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Our first dance was next. We awkwardly shuffled our way through Stevie Wonder’s ‘As’ and it was about half way through that I wished we’d have bothered taking dance classes! Being a natural introvert, this was possibly the most uncomfortable part of the evening for me personally. We kicked off the night with David Bowies ‘Let’s Dance’ and thankfully, a few of our friends began to hit the dance floor. We’d actually borrowed the PA system from one of Adams wonderful friends and complied our own playlist on Spotify. This was a great plan and all was well…until Kanye’s ‘Gold Digger’ blasted through the speakers and was NOT the radio version that we thought we’d added. Cue another awkward few minutes as I prayed for it to finish.

Between chatting with friends and catching up with family, the night absolutely flew by. I realised afterwards that there were so many people who I’d not even spoken to during the reception and gave myself a guilt trip for a good few days! With over 100 guests and just 5 hours to get around them all, I eventually forgave myself and hoped that everyone had just as much fun as we did.

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One of my friends (who has the best taste in music) eventually took over the playlist and by 11pm, the dance floor was full. She ended the night with Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York’ which was amazing! Adam and I went back to Oakfield Manor the next morning to help clear up and collect our decorations, only to find that the staff had pretty much done it all for us. They were so helpful and lovely throughout both the reception and the prior organisation; I cannot recommend them enough. We even got a sneak peek of the incredible cheetahs on our way out, prompting us to plan our next family day at Chester Zoo soon!

*All images by Abigail Joan Photography 

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  1. Sarah
    7th May 2017 / 9:07 am

    Hi Lisa, what a beautiful wedding you look to have had 🙂 My partner and I recently got engaged and seem to have gone through a similar journey to yours with regards to finding a venue – it’s so overwhelming! When my mum suggested Chester Zoo it instantly sang to both of us. Unfortunately Oakfield Manor is currently being renovated so it’s going to be quite a wait before we can pick a date, but for the right venue we’re both happy to wait 🙂 I’ve been wondering though, how big is the dance floor? I was thinking of having a ceilidh, which requires a bit of space and am unsure if Oakfield Manor can accommodate this. What do you think?

    • 7th May 2017 / 6:02 pm

      Hi Sarah. First of all, congratulations! Wedding planning can get a little overwhelming but you guys should definitely go with whatever feels right for the two of you. We’d initially disregarded the zoo as we assumed that it’d be way out of our price range. We then looked around at various hotels for months but were left feeling flat. We finally spoke to Chester Zoo and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was much cheaper than expected. Oakfield Manor is absolutely beautiful and the location was ideal (my family is based in Manchester and Adams are mainly in North Wales). The staff were amazing, super helpful throughout and so accommodating on the night. I’d highly recommend them! They have three different rooms and if you book a reception there, you get use of the whole place. The one we used as a dance floor was a little small but the others should be big enough for your needs. I hope that helps! Good luck xx
      Lisa | That British Betty Blog recently posted…A Manchester Arty Party With VikingMy Profile

      • Sarah
        7th May 2017 / 6:17 pm

        Thanks Lisa! That’s really helpful 🙂

  2. 2nd January 2017 / 1:02 am

    Aw wow, it looks fantastic!
    There was also some adult themed humour at my expense in our best man’s speech – I was mortified at the time but laugh about it now, haha!

  3. 15th November 2016 / 12:52 pm

    Looks like such a beautiful day! That cake is awesome 🙂 x

    • 15th November 2016 / 1:11 pm

      Thanks lovely, it was amazing. Sponge are one of my favourite places for cake, always super tasty and fresh! (I have no affiliation with them; I just think they’re ace!) xx

  4. 13th November 2016 / 8:51 pm

    Looks beautiful. I’ve always thought zoo’s make great locations for weddings

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